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In the scripture God says that the observance of the Sabbath is a sign that identifies His people. Yet many Christians today don’t consider the Sabbath command to be particularly important, much less binding.
Obviously, we have a problem here.
The fourth commandment reads:
Once we fully understand this commandment we will recognise how world-changing the Sabbath is.
What do the ten commandments express?
The Ten Commandments define the terms of our relationship with God so that we are able to express the nature and character of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
As we conform our lives to Jesus Christ we give expression to His righteousness and justice, thereby bringing order into the chaos of our fallen world – and thereby manifest the reality of the Kingdom of God.
This is all powerful stuff… and the fourth commandment is the key to how this is all brought about.
A day of holy rest
The fourth command tells us that we are to keep the Sabbath day holy. This is not just a day of relaxation and recreation. It is a day of holy rest – a day that we enter into God’s rest.
Entering into rest does not just happen! Rest is always preceded by work. It takes work before one is able to enter into a state of rest.
So if it takes physical work in order to enjoy physical rest, what kind of work must we do in order to enter into holy rest?
What kind of work are we to do?
Hebrews 3:19 tells us that the Israelites could not enter into God’s rest when they first came to the borders of the Promised Land because of their unbelief.
The word unbelief in this verse is the Greek ἀπιστία. This word occurs 11 times in the New Testament and means “a lack of faith, often with the implication of stubbornly refusing to believe or act in accord with God’s will or law.”
The work we are therefore to do is not physical but spiritual in nature. It involves putting aside the belief we hold in our own independent sinful flesh nature, and submitting our lives to the will and laws of God – trusting and believing in His faithfulness rather than our own.
Being secure in this relationship allows us to enter into the rest that it affords, as Hebrews 4:3 says:
The pathway to rest
We see this process illustrated by the first three of the Ten Commandments, which illustrate a pathway to entering into God’s Holy Rest.
Initially God reveals Himself to us in the first commandment, in which He declares that He is our God. He is the one who initiates the relationship. We respond in the second commandment by declaring that He is our God and that we will have no other. Here we lay down our own claim to sovereignty – we reject the original lie that we can be like God when we act independently of Him. This finds its fullness in the expression of the Third Commandment – where we fully trust in the faithfulness of God, thereby no longer taking His name in vain.
At this point we enter into the rest of the fourth commandment.
Relationship requires intentional effort
Reaching this place is not necessarily going to be easy – as we must lay down our own lives. The writer of Hebrews notes in chapter 4:11:
Developing faith in the faithfulness of God requires intentional effort in the building of a relationship. It involves getting to know Jesus on an intimate level. It is not an easy thing to do. In our world, living an authentic Christian life is to be counter-cultural. We find ourselves needing to take a stance that is not the popular one. It opens one up to persecution.
How bearing christ’s image gives rest
However, as we take a stand for Christ, and bear His image into this fallen world, the persecution that is being directed against us is not directed to our person, but rather to the image of Christ that we bear.
As He has already overcome the evil one, by having risen victoriously from death, He bears our persecution, giving us His strength, allowing us to stand, and we thereby enter into His Rest.
Bearing christ’s image changes the world
But what is the purpose of rest? Is the main aim of living the authentic Christian life to reach a state of perpetual rest, a heavenly bliss as it were? Or is there something more?
Having entered into this rest, and bearing the image of our King, we become His agents through whom His righteousness and justice is dispensed into the chaos of our fallen world, and whereby His Kingdom is manifested – commencing with the Fifth Reality – the foundation of a strong society being built on strong family relationships, both spiritual and physical.
This is how entering into Sabbath rest can change the world.